From Mao to Xi: Chinese Political Leadership and the Craft of Consolidating Power

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Student Presentation

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Michael Touchton


During 1965-66, a great power struggle engulfed Chinese politics while the Vietnam War escalated. While most scholars study this period for the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao, this research proposes to examine the role the Vietnam War played in China’s political power struggle, and how Mao used the issue of Vietnam to defeat his rivals. The Chinese political structure has changed since then. Yet, it is unclear whether current President Xi Jinping has more power than Mao to personally dictate how to handle problems along China’s periphery, including a deteriorating relationship with Vietnam. This question is important because China is becoming a world class naval power, and has the potential to become a hegemon in Southeast Asia. This research compares the Vietnam War’s impact on Chinese politics during 1965-66 with Xi Jinping’s contemporary anti-corruption campaign. Specifically, I use Causal-Process tracing to compare and contrast consolidation of power under Mao and current President Xi Jinping. I draw from primary government sources of the time period, but also employ secondary sources to contrast them with each other. This research will provide the opportunity to understand how Chinese politics has changed since the 1960s, and how the Vietnam War affected Chinese politics.

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